Archaeological teams often take field trips to other sites during excavation season. Last Thursday afternoon, we went to the biblical city of Gezer. This site has seen the best of times and the worst of times. What does that mean? Check out this short video of our visit.
Joshua defeated Gezer’s army in the field but did not capture or occupy the city itself (Joshua 10:33). Gezer remained an independent Canaanite city until the time of Solomon, when the Egyptians destroyed it and gave it to Solomon as a dowry for his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter (1 Kings 9:16). Solomon rebuilt it as an administrative center as he reorganized Israelite society from one of tribal networks to centralized governorships (1 Kings 9:15; 4:7-19).
How did Gezer retain its independence from Israel for so long? We don’t have all of the story, but one reason may be economic. As you see in the video, it was a very well-located city at a crossroads of Philistine, Israelite, and Judahite territories. Gezer sat along key highways for commerce and could have easily disrupted the economy of any local aggressor. Add substantial defenses against a siege and you have a tough nut to crack. Governments in Canaan probably found it easier and safer to work with the Canaanites in Gezer.
The Bible doesn’t give us details on Egypt’s destruction of Gezer and its handover to Solomon, but perhaps we can speculate. Egypt had been embroiled in the internal strife of its Third Intermediate Period and an energetic Pharaoh seeking to reassert Egypt’s influence might have found Gezer an attractive way to seize control of key trade routes and reestablish a base of influence in Canaan. Such a move would have carried great risk given Israel’s dominance in that period, along with the reality of Egypt’s decline. Turning Gezer over to to Solomon, along with an Egyptian princess to boot, would be a good way to make nice with an angry Israelite monarch. (Foreign kings didn’t just marry daughters of Pharaoh.) Jerome Murphy-O’Conner comments on this possibility in his book, The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (highly recommended for Bible students who visit Israel).